Sweeping views, beautiful skies, but also a food reservoir for many types of birds and fish. That is the Wad, the grand mudflats. The shallow coastal area measuring 1 million hectare stretches from Den Helder to Denmark. Twice daily the tide rises and falls, which offers a stunning spectacle. At high tide it is a large sea and at low tide about half of the wadden area is exposed, which results in a complex display of mud, channels and sandy flat. Since June 2009 the Waddensea can be found on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a true accolade for this unique tidal landscape!
The Wadden mudflats are sometimes called the most bird-rich area of Western Europa and Northern Africa. About 5 to 6 million birds migrate through this rest area each year. It has a unique importance for the bird population in Europe and is unequalled as a nature area. As a result of the tidal changes an enormous food reservoir develops which can consistently feed 600 up to 1000 birds, 75% of which are waders, per square kilometre of mudflat. Plankton, algae, seaweed, various types of young fish, shrimp, worms and shellfish can be found here.
The Wadden Sea is of high importance for waders, because their population is almost certainly not determined by their breeding grounds, but by the amount of food in their winter area. Waders is a generic name for some 40 types of ducks, seagulls, shorebirds, and geese which are all to a large extent dependent on the mudflats for their food supply. Naturally, their are also birds that are not considered waders, but do appear here in relatively large numbers, such as the golden plover, lapwing, starling, crow, and the wagtail.
The Wadden Sea can be found on the southside of Ameland. Between the Wadden Sea and Ameland the sturdy Wadden Sea dike protects the island against the sea water. During high tide and storm it can be pretty boisterous on the Wadden Sea. The wind in combination with the high tide can result in big waves, which will batter the dikes even more than usual.
During big storms, combined with extremly high tide, dike guarding can be instituted. Luckily this is rarely needed. The statue on the dike at the Ballumerbocht, on the Reeweg between Nes and Ballum, shows how this was done in the past.
The highest chance for extreme weather is from October through March, which is why this period is called the storm season.
Source: 'Natuurlijk Ameland' - Staatsbosbeheer (Forestry Department)